The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is serving up American culinary traditions with a series of “Cooking Up History” demonstrations in 2018. The free, hour-long cooking demonstrations (schedule follows) feature Smithsonian food historian Ashley Rose Young paired with a guest chef each month to prepare a recipe and discuss the history of ingredients and culinary techniques, cultural background or its association with a historical period or individual. Visitors may purchase a dish inspired by the featured recipe in the museum’s cafe.
Before Alton Brown, Rachael Ray, and Giada De Laurentiis, there was Louisan Mamer (1910–2005). An early employee of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), Mamer traveled around the country teaching farmwomen how to use electricity in their daily lives. Demonstrating how to cook with electricity was a major part of Mamer's job and she developed many recipes during the course of her career.
High school can be a challenging time for teens. Much as they do today, young men and women throughout the 20th century wrestled with identity, education, and social status during their teenage years. For young women in the 20th century, changes in the way people thought about gender and equality greatly impacted their experience. Documenting those changes for teens is an important aspect of telling a larger story about the changing roles of women in the 20th century. The museum has found an interesting way to tell that story through its agricultural collection.
Getting to know just under two million objects, almost 17,000 cubic feet of archives, and around 140 curatorial and collections staff is a big task. I started work on January 23 as the new associate director of Curatorial Affairs—I look after everything to do with the museum's collections and curatorial work. One hundred days on, here are a few of the things I've enjoyed, noticed, or learned.